PPC Cement to retire veteran kiln

Company committed to operations in PE as emissions regulations bring career of 'old lady' to an end in June


It is the end of an era for PPC Cement’s Port Elizabeth’s plant as one of its kilns – known as “the old lady” – will retire its operations come the end of June.
This is due to stricter environmental regulations, which state that kiln emissions of gaseous pollutants need to be below 50mg/Nm3 (milligrams per normal cubic metre) by July 1.
Up to now, the regulation stipulated that emissions remain below 200mg/Nm3.
Generally referred to as the heart of the cement production process, the kiln’s capacity defines the capacity of the plant.
The “old lady” , which is 132m long with a maximum daily capacity of 720 tons, has been operating since 1965.
PPC Cement South Africa managing director Njomobo Lekula said due to changing regulations, the organisation took the decision to convert the plant in Port Elizabeth into a milling facility.
The Port Elizabeth plant was commissioned in 1928 and is 91 years old.
Lekula said clinker, which is ground to a fine powder and used as the binder in many cement products, would be brought to the city from the company’s slurry factory in North West.
“In the past year, we have spent about R1.7bn on our Mahikeng factory.
“The slurry kiln [number nine] is not only environmentally fitting but it is also an efficient kit with very modern technology.
“Our plans with the Port Elizabeth factory is to continue its existence.
“We are currently spending in excess of R65m on a material landing facility on this site and that will be to facilitate the clinker that will be coming through from slurry.
“We will keep this plant operational and produce a product that we have become accustomed to in terms of quality.
“While it is an end of part of the history here in Port Elizabeth, it is certainly new beginnings for the plant,” he said.
Earlier in 2019, The Concrete Institute confirmed that it would be lodging an appeal to the International Trade Administration Commission of SA to impose tariffs on cement imports to protect producers from the mass importation of cheaper cements from other countries.
Lekula said the issue of imports had been a major constraint for PPC and the company was part of a process of engaging with the relevant authorities to maintain jobs for South Africans in the industry.
“What is sad about the imports is that PPC is a contributor to the national fiscus.
“In 2018 our tax contribution was in the region of R400m.”
A knock-on effect against PPC has been the calamitous decline of the country’s infrastructure development .Lekula said SA’s cement production capacity was positioned at 18-million tons, while demand was at 13-million tons – an over-capacity of five-million tons.“But we are positive about the future of South Africa.“In the meantime, while the demand has been shrinking, our focus has been mainly on driving operational efficiency and focusing on cost.”Lekula said he was positive about the company’s long-term future and lauded the facilities operating in Rwanda, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Mozambique.“Our Rwanda operation will basically be at 100% capacity by the end of the year,” he said.“In the DRC the politics are still not very stable, but post-election there is promise and everyone who is invested there wants to see some progress.“So in five years’ time I see the organisation’s share price having recovered.”

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